Monday, May 8, 2017
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1719 (starts 5/10/17)
Of the 31 songs featured on this week's show, the one that sticks out the most is a tune from the Fugs called Boobs A Lot. (See what I did there?)
Artist: Simon and Garfunkel
Title: Richard Cory
Source: CD: Collected Works (originally released on LP: Sounds Of Silence)
Writer(s): Paul Simon
My ultra-cool 9th-grade English teacher brought in a copy of Simon And Garfunkel's Sounds Of Silence album one day. As a class, we deconstructed the lyrics of two of the songs on that album: A Most Peculiar Man and Richard Cory. Both songs deal with suicide, but under vastly different circumstances. Whereas A Most Peculiar Man is about a lonely man who lives an isolated existence as an anonymouse resident of a boarding house, Richard Cory deals with a character who is at the center of society, known and envied by many. Too bad most high school English classes weren't that interesting.
Artist: Shadows Of Knight
Title: Dark Side
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Dark Side, written by guitarist Warren Rogers and singer Jim Sohns, is probably the quintessential Shadows of Knight song. It has all the classic elements of a garage rock song: three chords, a blues beat and lots of attitude. Oh, and the lyrics "I love you baby more than birds love the sky". What more can you ask for?
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Atco)
You know, with a name like the Groupies you would expect an all-female band or at least something like the Mothers of Invention. Instead we get a band from New York City that billed itself as "abstract rock." I guess that's using the term abstract in the same sense that scientific journals use it: to distill something complicated down to its basic essence, because these guys were musically exactly what the title of their only single implied: primitive.
Artist: Blues Project
Title: Goin' Down Louisiana
Source: LP: Tommy Flanders, Danny Kalb, Steve Katz, Al Kooper, Andy Kuhlberg, Roy Blumenfeld Of The Blues Project (originally released on LP: Live At The Cafe Au Go Go)
Writer(s): McKinley Morganfield
Label: Verve Forecast
The first Blues Project LP, Live at the Cafe Au-Go-Go, was a collection of mostly cover tunes recorded over a four-day period in November of 1965 and released in early 1966. Although even at that point the Project was becoming known for its extended jams, the performances were deliberately kept short to placate nervous record company executives. After original lead vocalist Tommy Flanders quit the band unexpectedly before the group's first album was released, an additional live recording session was arranged, with other members such as guitarist Danny Kalb taking the lead vocals on songs like the Muddy Waters classic Goin' Down Louisiana.
Artist: Peanut Butter Conspiracy
Source: Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released on CD: Spreading From The Ashes)
Writer(s): Alan Brackett
Label: Rhino (original label: Ace/Big Beat)
Year: Recorded 1966, released 2005
The Peanut Butter Conspiracy (or PBC) was one of the more psychedelic of the local L.A. bands playing the various clubs along L.A.'s Sunset Strip during its golden years of 1965-68. As was the case with so many bands of that time and place, they never really got the opportunity to strut their stuff, although they did leave some decent tapes behind, such as Eventually, recorded in 1966 but not released until 2005.
Title: I Want To Tell You
Source: CD: Revolver
Writer(s): George Harrison
Label: Parlophone (original US label: Capitol)
The first pre-recorded reel-to-reel tape I ever bought was the Capitol version of the Beatles' Revolver album, which I picked up about a year after the LP was released. Although my Dad's tape recorder had small built-in speakers, his Koss headphones had far superior sound, which led to me sleeping on the couch in the living room with the headphones on. Hearing songs like I Want To Tell You on factory-recorded reel-to-reel tape through a decent pair of headphones gave me an appreciation for just how well-engineered Revolver was, and also inspired me to (eventually) learn my own way around a recording studio. The song itself, by the way, is one of three George Harrison songs on Revolver; the most on any Beatle album up to that point, and a major reason that, when pressed, I almost always end up citing Revolver as my favorite Beatles LP.
Artist: Manfred Mann Chapter Three
Title: Ain't It Sad
Source: LP: Manfred Mann Chapter Three
Writer(s): Mike Hugg
After a successful run as a British pop group with a handful of international hits, the original Manfred Mann group disbanded in 1968. Mann himself was far from done, however, and soon had a new band Manfred Mann Chapter Three, centered around Mann's organ playing and longtime collaborator Mike Hugg's piano work. Hugg's playing dominates the album's shortest track, Ain't It Sad, which clocks in at less than two minutes.
Title: World Of You
Source: CD: Insane Times (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Zonophone (original label: Parlophone)
Originally from St. Louis, Mo., the Aerovons were such big fans of the Beatles that they moved to England in hopes of meeting their idols. They had enough talent in their own right to get a contract with EMI, recording an album's worth of material at Abbey Road in 1969. Although only two singles from those sessions were originally released (on Parlophone, the same label that the Beatles' records were on), the Aerovons finally got some recognition many years later when an acetate of their unreleased album was discovered and remastered for release on the RPM label. Perhaps more important for the band members, they got to meet the Beatles while recording at Abbey Road.
Artist: Blood, Sweat And Tears
Title: And When I Die
Source: CD: Blood, Sweat And Tears
Writer(s): Laura Nyro
Following the release of the first Blood, Sweat And Tears LP, Child Is Father To The Man, Bandleader Al Kooper and two other members, Randy Brecker and Jerry Weiss, decided to move on to other projects, leaving Steve Katz, Bobby Colomby and the rest to find replacement members. The first, and most important move was to bring in David Clayton-Thomas to take over lead vocals. Three more new additions brought the total membership to nine for the recording of their self-titled second LP. The album was produced by James William Guercio, who had previously produced the Buckinghams for the label and was simultaneously working with another rock band with a brass section called the Chicago Transit Authority. The album Blood, Sweat And Tears was recorded on brand new state of the art 16-track equipment at CBS Recording Studios in New York, and was one of the first albums ever released utilizing 16-track technology. The album produced no less than three top 5 singles, the third of which was their version of Laura Nyro's And When I Die, which had previously been recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary.
Artist: Grand Funk Railroad
Title: Can't Be Too Long
Source: LP: On Time
Writer(s): Mark Farner
Never has there been a band as univerally hated by the rock press as Grand Funk Railroad (although Uriah Heep in their early years came close). Apparently, someone decided that between Hendrix and Cream, everything good that could possibly be done with a power trio had been done, and there was really no reason for another one to ever exist. Or so it seemed in 1969, when Grand Funk Railroad's first LP, On Time, hit the racks. A funny thing happened, though. The band built a following, despite the critics disdain. In fact, they built a bigger following than any other band had built at that point in time. How big were they? Consider this: In 1970 the first two Grand Funk Railroad albums, which had been released the previous year, achieved gold record status. As did their live album, released in 1970. As did their third studio album, Closer To Home, which was also released in 1970. That's right. Four gold record awards in the same year. That's a pretty big following, especially when you consider just how primitive tracks like Can't Be Too Long, from their first album, really are. But then, that's what rock music is really all about. Primitive, and loud. Really, really loud. Which is how this track should be listened to.
And speaking of power trios...
Title: Deserted Cities Of The Heart
Source: British import CD: Spirit Of Joy (originally released on LP: Wheels Of Fire)
Label: Polydor (original US label: Atco)
The most psychedelic of Cream's songs were penned by Jack Bruce and his songwriting partner Pete Brown. One of the best of these was chosen to close out the last studio side of the last Cream album released while the band was still in existence. Deserted Cities Of The Heart is a fitting epitaph to an unforgettable band.
Artist: First Edition
Title: Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 9-Acid Rock (originally released on LP: The First Edition and as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Mickey Newbury
Label: Rhino (original label: Reprise)
In 1968, former New Christy Mistrels members Kenny Rogers and Mike Settle decided to form a psychedelic rock band, the First Edition. Although Settle was the official leader on the first album, it was Rogers who would emerge as the star of the band, even to the point of eventually changing the band's name to Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. That change reflected a shift from psychedelic to country flavored pop that would eventually propel Rogers to superstar status.
Title: Evil Hoodoo
Source: LP: The Seeds
Label: GNP Crescendo
With a title like Evil Hoodoo, one might expect a rather spooky track. Indeed, the song does start off that way, but soon moves into standard Seeds territory (as does most everything on the band's debut album). Luckily, Sky Saxon and company would turn out to be a bit more adventurous on their second LP.
Artist: Bob Dylan
Title: It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
Source: Mono LP: Bringing It All Back Home
Writer(s): Bob Dylan
I recently saw a picture of Bob Dylan sitting alone in a theater with the caption "Bob Dylan sitting with everyone that's a better songwriter than he is". While I may not go quite that far, I have to admit that you would have to search far and wide to find any song with lyrics equal to It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding). The song was first performed in October of 1964 and recorded in January of 1965 for inclusion on his album Bringing It All Back Home. Famous lines from the song include "Money doesn't talk, it swears," and "He not busy being born is busy dying." Dylan himself has repeatedly cited the song as one of his songs that means the most to him, and he has continued to perform it throughout his career (an estimated 772 times as of 2015).
Title: Boobs A Lot
Source: CD: The Fugs First Album (originally released as LP: The Village Fugs Sing Ballads Of Contempory Protest, Point Of Views, And General Dissatisfaction)
Writer(s): Steve Weber
Label: Fantasy (original label: Broadside)
The Fugs were probably the first underground rock band in existence. The group was formed in 1964 (or 1963; my two sources contradict each other on that one) by two self-published beat poets, Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg, who, after writing over 50 songs together, decided to form a band with Ken Weaver. Since none of them actually played an instrument (although Weaver would eventually become the group's drummer), they decided to recruit two guys from the Holy Modal Rounders, guitarist Steve Weber and fiddler Peter Stampfel, for the opening of Sanders' Peace Eye Bookstore in Greenwich Village. Apparently the performance was a success, and the bunch of them (including a couple other poets who dropped out when they realized that they were actually expected to show up for gigs) decided to start rehearsing on a regular basis at the store. By early 1965, the Fugs were officially a band, playing a handful of gigs around the Village and coming to the attention of Moe Asch, owner of Folkways Records. Asch signed the Fugs to his Broadside label, releasing their first album, The Village Fugs Sing Ballads Of Contempory Protest, Point Of Views, And General Dissatisfaction, in 1965. Among the more memorable tunes on that first album was a rather cute song by Weber called Boobs A Lot, that in all likelihood was already in the Holy Modal Rounders' repertoire before Weber hooked up with the Fugs.
Title: Big Black Smoke
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Writer(s): Ray Davies
The Kinks had some of the best B sides of the 60s. Case in point: Big Black Smoke, which appeared as the flip of Dead End Street in early 1967. The song deals with a familiar phenomenon of the 20th century: the small town girl that gets a rude awakening after moving to the big city. In this case the city was London, known colloquially as "the Smoke".
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Doncha Bother Me
Source: British import LP: Aftermath
Label: Abkco (original US label: London)
Aftermath was an album of firsts. It was the first Rolling Stones album to consist entirely of original compositions by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. It was the first Rolling Stones album released in true stereo. It was the first Rolling Stones album to be recorded entirely in the US. Finally, it was the album that saw Brian Jones emerge as a multi-instrumentalist, leaving Richards to do most of the guitar work. At over 50 minutes, Aftermath was one of the longest albums released by a rock band up to that point, and it features one of the first rock songs to run over 10 minutes in length (Goin' Home). Although Jones (and bassist Bill Wyman) did a lot of experimenting with new (to them) instruments, several of the tracks, such as Doncha Bother Me, are classic Stones material in the vein of the Chicago blues that was such a major influence on the band's style.
Artist: Paul Revere and the Raiders
Source: Mono LP: Midnight Ride
Kicks was not the first pop song with a strong anti-drug message, but it was the first one to be a certified hit, making it to the number four spot on the US charts and hitting number one in Canada. It was also the biggest hit for Paul Revere and the Raiders until Indian Reservation went all the way to the top five years later.
Artist: Beach Boys
Title: Caroline No
Source: Mono CD: Pet Sounds
According to lyricist Peter Asher, Caroline No was written because Brian Wilson was "saddened to see how sweet little girls turned out to be kind of bitchy, hardened adults". Though the song was originally part of the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album, it ended up being the only single ever released by Capitol credited to Brian Wilson as a solo artist.
Title: Peter Perceival Patterson's Pet Pig Porky/Pleasant Valley Sunday
Source: LP: Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, LTD.
The album version of Pleasant Valley Sunday differs from the single version in two ways. First, on the original LP Peter Tork's spoken piece Peter Perceival Patterson's Pet Pig Porky precedes the song on the album and is considered part of the same track. Second, the mix is different, with the background vocals more prominent on the stereo album mix. This is the mix used on most compilation CDs and thus heard on the radio more often. One of these days I'll dig up a copy of the single mix for comparison's sake.
Artist: West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band
Title: Until The Poorest People Have Money To Spend
Source: CD: Volume III-A Child's Guide To Good And Evil
Label: Sundazed (original label: Reprise)
The final West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band album for Reprise, Volume III-A Child's Guide To Good And Evil, is generally considered the group's best album as well, despite the absence of founding member Danny Harris (who would return for their next LP on the Amos label). As always, Bob Markley provided the lyrics for all the band's original songs on the LP, including Until The Poorest People Have Money To Spend, which Shaun Harris wrote the music for. Although the sentiment expressed in the song is a good one, the sincerity of Markley's lyrics is somewhat suspect, according to guitarist Ron Morgan, who said that Markley was notoriously miserly with his own money (of which he had inherited quite a lot).
Artist: Bob Seger System
Source: LP: Ramblin' Gamblin' Man
Writer(s): Dan Honaker
Most of Bob Seger's original compositions in the early days were hard rockers such as Ramblin' Gamblin' Man and 2+2=? For the slower material on his first LP he went with outside songwriters such as Dan Honaker, who wrote the song Gone. Elements of Gone can be heard in Seger's own later compositions such as Turn The Page.
Artist: Lovin' Spoonful
Title: Coconut Grove
Source: LP: Hums Of The Lovin' Spoonful
Label: Sundazed/Kama Sutra
The 1966 album Hums Of The Lovin' Spoonful was an attempt by the band to play in a variety of styles, as if it were being recorded by several different bands. By most accounts they succeeded, as can be heard by comparing the two biggest hits from the LP, Summer In The City and Nashville Cats. One of the quieter, acoustic numbers is a song called Coconut Grove, that manages to evoke images of the South Pacific without devolving into Rogers and Hart territory.
Artist: Spencer Davis Group
Title: Gimme Some Lovin'
Source: Simulated stereo LP: Progressive Heavies (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: United Artists
The movie The Big Chill used Gimme Some Lovin' by the Spencer Davis Group as the backdrop for a touch football game at an informal reunion of former college students from the 60s. From that point on, movie soundtracks became much more than just background music and soundtrack albums started becoming best-sellers. Not entirely coincidentally, 60s-oriented oldies radio stations began to appear in major markets as well. Ironically, most of those stations are now playing 80s oldies.
Artist: Spencer Davis Group
Title: I Can't Get Enough Of It
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Label: United Artists
One listen to the B side of the Spencer Davis Group's1967 hit I'm A Man and it's easy to see why the young Stevie Winwood was often compared to Ray Charles by the British music press. I Can't Get Enough Of It, co-written by producer Jimmy Miller, features Winwood on both lead vocal and piano. Winwood would leave the group shortly after the release of this single and resurface with the more psychedelically-tinged Traffic later the same year.
Artist: Spencer Davis Group
Title: I'm A Man
Source: Mono LP: Progressive Heavies (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: United Artists
The Spencer Davis Group, featuring Steve and Muff Winwood, was one of the UK's most successful white R&B bands of the sixties, cranking out a steady stream of hit singles. Two of them, the iconic Gimme Some Lovin' and I'm A Man, were also major hits in the US, the latter being the last song to feature the Winwood brothers. Muff Winwood became a successful record producer. The group itself continued on for several years, but were never able to duplicate their earlier successes. As for Steve Winwood, he quickly faded off into obscurity, never to be heard from again. Except as the leader of Traffic. And a member of Blind Faith. And Traffic again. And some critically-acclaimed collaborations in the early 1980s with Asian musicians. Oh yeah, and a few major solo hits in the late 80s. Other than that, nothing.
Artist: Buffalo Springfield
Title: Rock And Roll Woman
Source: LP: Homer (soundtrack) (originally released on LP: Buffalo Springfield Again and as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Stephen Stills
Label: Cotillion (original label: Atco)
Buffalo Springfield did not sell huge numbers of records (except for the single For What It's Worth). Nor did they pack in the crowds. As a matter of fact, when they played the club across the street from where Love was playing, they barely had any audience at all. Artistically, though, it's a whole 'nother story. During their brief existence Buffalo Springfield launched the careers of no less than four major artists: Neil Young, Richie Furay, Jim Messina and Stephen Stills. They also recorded more than their share of tracks that have held up better than most of what else was being recorded at the time. Case in point: Rock and Roll Woman, a Stephen Stills tune that still sounds fresh well over 40 years after it was recorded.
Artist: Jelly Bean Bandits
Source: British Import CD: All Kinds Of Highs (originally released on LP: The Jelly Bean Bandits)
Label: Big Beat (original label: Mainstream)
Of the various albums released on Bob Shad's Mainstream label from 1966-1969, one of the most fully realized was the first (and only) album by the Jelly Bean Bandits. Formed as the Mirror in 1966, the Bandits built up a following in the native Newburgh, NY and surrounding areas over a period on months. The particularly brash move of tearing pages out of the yellow pages and showing up unannounced at the offices of various record labels led them to a meeting with Shad at Mainstream's New York offices. After listening to the band's demos Shad offered the Jelly Bean Bandits a contract to record three albums, but, sadly, only one was released. One of the highlights of that album was Tapestries, sung by drummer Joe Scalfari. The Bandits immediately got to work on a second album, but a combination of internal and financial difficulties, coupled with lack of promotional support from their label, led to the group's early demise.
Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: Dharma For One
Source: LP: This Was
By 1968 it was almost considered mandatory that a rock band would include a drum solo on at least one album, thanks to Ginger Baker's Toad (on Cream's Wheels Of Fire) and Iron Butterfly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. Jethro Tull's contribution to the trend was Dharma For One, the only Tull song to give a writing credit to drummer Clive Bunker. Compared to most drum solos, Bunker's is fairly short (less than two minutes) and somewhat quirky, almost resembling a Spike Jones recording in places.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix
Title: Stepping Stone
Source: CD: First Rays of the New Rising Sun (originally released on LP: War Heroes)
Writer: Jimi Hendrix
Label: MCA (original label: Reprise)
The last single released by Jimi Hendrix (with bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles as Hendrix Band Of Gypsys) during his lifetime was Stepping Stone, recorded in February of 1970 and released two months later. In June, Hendrix and drummer Mitch Mitchell recorded new instrumental parts for inclusion on Hendrix's new double LP, tentatively titled First Rays Of The New Rising Sun. Hendrix's death on Sept 16, 1970 sidetracked the double LP until it was finally finished by Mitchell and engineer Eddie Kramer in 1997 and released on CD. Meanwhile the revised version of Stepping Stone was included on 1972's War Heroes LP, as well as on other collections over the years.
Title: Soul Sacrifice
Source: CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on LP: Santana)
Label: Rhino (original label: Columbia)
Of all the bands formed in the late 1960s, very few achieved any degree of popularity outside of their local community. Fewer still could be considered an influence on future stars. Most rare of all are those who managed to be both popular and influential while maintaining a degree of artistic integrity. One name that comes immediately to mind is Santana (both the band and the man). It might be surprising, then, to hear that the first Santana album, released in 1969, was savaged by the rock press, particularly the San Francisco based Rolling Stone magazine, who called it boring and repetitious. It wasn't until the band performed Soul Sacrifice (heard here in its original studio version) at Woodstock that Santana became major players on the rock scene.